April 1, 2021

Foot Washing

April 1, 2021

By Bishop Joe Pennel


John 13:1-7, 31-35

There was a good reason for foot washing in the time of Jesus. It was a sign of greeting and hospitality. Both feet were washed as a guest entered the home. 

Life was different in the time of Jesus. There were no paved roads. People had to walk on roads where horses, camels and sheep had traveled. It was very easy to get sandaled feet dirty with more than road dust. Cleaning the feet was a nasty task, relegated to slaves. So, the disciples of Jesus had experienced foot washing as they came into the house for their final meal with Jesus. 

After this last supper, Jesus did something that was out of the ordinary. He got up from the table, put a towel around his waist and knelt down to wash the feet of his disciples even despite the fact that they had been washed earlier.  He lowered himself and washed even those who would betray him. The message is clear. He continues to love and serve us even when we are unfaithful. The disciples allowed Jesus to wash their feet and we must allow Jesus to serve us if we are to serve others. 

Some of us are needlessly giving up our intimacy with Christ because we do not turn to Him to wash away our sinful ways. Or, we refuse to admit our need for inward cleansing. We often have our hands too full of ourselves to let Christ, through the Holy Spirit, cleanse us. It cuts across the grain of our pride and self-sufficiency. 

After Jesus finished washing everyone’s feet (including Judas), he taught them that they were to bear witness to his love. He said, “so if I have washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another”. The symbol is clear. We are to love others as He has loved us. 

Today is Maundy Thursday, a time when Christians all over the world will be coming to the Lord’s Table for Holy Communion. The bread and the wine will be served to all whom come to partake-even those who are like Peter and Judas. 

In the United Methodist Church we have a ritual for the Lord’s Supper but we do not have a ritual for foot washing. Is there a reason that we do not do what Jesus did for his disciples? Even without this we can let Jesus cleanse us that we might love others as he has loved us.